Breaking down the Redskins’ defensive line for the 2020 season
By Jonathan Eig
On Roster: Ryan Bee, Jordan Brailford, Ryan Kerrigan, Cameron Malveaux, Nate Orchard, James Smith-Williams, Montez Sweat, Chase Young
Projected Starters: Sweat, Young
Consecutive first-round draft picks, Sweat (23) and Young (21) should be nightmares for the league for years to come. They are central-casting 4-3 ends – tall, fast, and powerful. At around 6’5”, 265 each, they can hold the edge against the run. But their real value comes from their ability to penetrate. The size, speed, and burst they have both shown (Young only in college, and Sweat toward the end of his rookie season) will cause disruption on pass plays and on slower-developing runs. Teams will have to give help to their tackles, which will in turn limit the creativity of the offenses. It will be fascinating to watch them line up against the likes of Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray this season.
Ryan Kerrigan, moving back to end, will provide quality veteran leadership. If he makes the team. It is highly likely that he will, and this move should only benefit him, as he will not have to chase after backs or tight ends as he did at linebacker. But if several of the young players emerge, Kerrigan and his big cap number could be a casualty.
At least two of the other five defensive ends on the roster would have to emerge in order for that to happen. As it stands now, one of the those five is likely to make the team as a rotational pass rusher. My money is on the two recent seventh-round draft picks, Jordan Brailford and James Smith-Williams. Both are athletically gifted pass rushers. Smith-Williams is a little bigger and more physical, but was injury-prone in college. Brailford is undersized but was very productive in college. He may never have the size to be an every-down contributor, but he could be a solid situational back-up. I don’t think it’s likely, but if both really emerge early, Kerrigan’s job could be in jeopardy.
The other three players – Ryan Bee, Cameron Malveaux, and Nate Orchard – are long shots. Orchard, another undersized end who might have been a better fit as a 3-4 backer, was a second-round draft pick back in 2015, but has never shown to be more than an emergency fill-in. Malveaux has also bounced around the during his three-year career. Bee is a tall, rangy player who has neither the speed nor the strength to stand out as a 4-3 end. His best chance would seem to come from finding a team running a 3-4. Injuries, and some real standout play on special teams could allow one of them to sneak onto the roster, but it doesn’t seem likely.